"Hospitality is the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity."
--Chevalier Louis de Jaucourt in Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
In short, hospitality is the warm, friendly reception and treatment of your guests. It is important in many areas, including restaurants, but it doesn't seem everyone understands its vital role. That failure can have a negative impact on a restaurant's bottomline so a restaurant owner needs to ensure that hospitality is a crucial element of their operations. It is said to be part of the hospitality industry. However, it may sound simple, but sometimes it isn't, and mainly through those blind to the potential problems.
Anyone working at a restaurant in the front of the house is responsible, for one degree or another, for providing hospitality. This is certainly obvious for the host/hostess and servers, but also includes the bartender, sommelier, manager, and even the owner, if they spend time in the front of the restaurant. It doesn't matter how good a restaurant's food and drink, if their hospitality is lacking, it will end up turning away customers. And those people will likely complain to others about the lack of hospitality which could lead to the loss of even more potential customers.
This post was spurred on by a recent discussion with some good friends about specific restaurants and hospitality. Mention was made of the owner of a high-end restaurant who is seen as brusque and impersonal as well as the sommelier at another high-end restaurant who seems detached at times, and fails to present the type of warm hospitality you expect at such a place. Both restaurants have excellent food and drink, but these prominent individuals, who fail to provide a high measure of hospitality, can turn away customers who otherwise would frequent such restaurants.
Naming names won't accomplish anything so don't even ask. If you've been to those restaurants, it should be more than evident there is a problem. What I am hoping is that all restaurants take a new look at themselves and ensure they are working hard to present the best hospitality that they can. Examine all of your staff, including yourself, to ensure you are coming across as personable and friendly. Some people, because of their personalities, may not be the best for the front of the house. If they can't change, to learn to do better, they maybe they should be moved to another position.
People dine out not just for food and drink, but for the experience. They want to be treated well, as a beloved guest, so if the hospitality is lacking, their experience suffers. And they won't want to repeat such a failed experience. Have your chef make the best food possible, have your sommelier compile a killer wine list, have your bartender concoct an awesome cocktail program, but don't forget the importance of hospitality.